Angus King is easily the most popular of the potential Maine Senate candidates, and looks like he would start out as a slight favorite in the race.
62% of voters in the state have a favorable opinion of King to only 24% with a negative one. His appeal crosses party lines- he's at his most popular with Democrats (74/14), but he's almost as well liked with independents (69/20). And even with Republicans he's above water at 43/38.
In a three way contest with Chellie Pingree as the Democrat and Charlie Summers as the Republican King leads with 36% to 31% for Pingree and 28% for Summers. It's possible King could be a spoiler but it's more likely he'd be a Senator. King wins 53% of the independent vote, takes 35% of Democrats, and gets 25% of Republicans.
King's supporters are pretty clear on which side they'd want him to take in the Senate: 51% say they would want him to caucus with the Democrats to only 25% who would want him to go with the Republicans. If there ends up being a strong Democratic candidate in the race he may need to pledge to organize with the Democrats in order to hold on to his initial support with the party's voters.
If King wasn't running, Pingree would be the strong favorite to replace Olympia Snowe. 52% of Democrats want her to be the party nominee, compared to only 28% for John Baldacci and 11% for Matt Dunlap. And she would lead all of the potential Republican candidates we tested in the general election by margins ranging anywhere from 12 to 21 points. Pingree has solid if not spectacular statewide favorability numbers- 47% see her favorably to 41% with an unfavorable opinion. She's polarizing- 74% of Democrats like her but 76% of Republicans don't. Tipping the scales in her favor overall is a 48/37 spread with independents.
It's quite clear that the Republican candidate pool in Maine is weak. Only 2 of the potential candidates achieve even 50% name recognition, and both of them are unpopular. Bruce Poliquin is the best known hopeful but is pretty universally panned with those familiar with him, drawing a 14/40 favorability rating. Charlie Summers does better but is still seen more negatively than positively, 22/32. It looks pretty likely that even if both King and a strong Democratic candidate are in the race, the GOP won't have a strong enough nominee to benefit from that split in the vote and pull an upset.
There's little consensus among GOP voters about who they'd like their candidate to be. 21% want Peter Cianchette, who isn't running, followed by 18% for Charlie Summers, 10% for Scott D'Amboise, 9% for Rick Bennett, 8% for Bruce Poliquin, 7% for Les Otten, 4% for Deb Plowman, and 1% for Bill Schneider. There's definitely no field clearer on that list, so the Republican primary could see the vote split lots of different ways.
There's a lot up in the air in the Maine Senate race, but we do know one thing: Angus King's in and the voters love him...if he can hold his initial support it's his race to lose.
Full results here